In 2010, using a specialized robotic camera, authors Tabor and Jacobovici, working with archaeologists, geologists, and forensic anthropologists, explored a previously unexcavated tomb in Jerusalem from around the time of Jesus. They made a remarkable discovery. The tomb contained several ossuaries, or bone boxes, two of which were carved with an iconic image and a Greek inscription. Taken together, the image and the inscription constitute the earliest archaeological evidence of faith in Jesus’ resurrection.
Since the newly discovered ossuaries can be reliably dated to before AD 70, when Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans, they also provide the first evidence in Jerusalem of the people who would later be called "Christians". In fact, it is possible, maybe even likely, that whoever was buried in this tomb knew Jesus and heard him preach.
The newly examined tomb is only 200 feet away from the so-called Jesus Family Tomb. This controversial tomb, excavated in 1980 and recently brought to international attention, contained ossuaries inscribed with names associated with Jesus and his immediate family. Critics dismissed the synchronicity of names as mere coincidence. But the new discovery increases the likelihood that the "Jesus Family Tomb" is, indeed, the real tomb of Jesus of Nazareth. Tabor and Jacobovici discuss the evidence in support of this interpretation and describe how both tombs appear to have been part of the property of a wealthy individual, possibly Joseph of Arimathea, the man who, according to the gospels, buried Jesus.
The Jesus Discovery explains how the recent find is revolutionizing our understanding of the earliest years of Christianity. Tabor and Jacobovici discuss what the concept of resurrection meant to the first followers of Jesus, particularly how it differed from the common understanding of the term today. Because the new archaeological discovery predates all other Christian documents, including the gospels, it offers a dramatic witness to what the people who knew Jesus believed.
There is no doubt that this is one of the most important archaeological discoveries ever made. The Jesus Discovery is the firsthand account of how it happened and what it means.
©2012 James D. Tabor, Simcha Jacobovici (P)2012 Simon & Schuster
Provocative, unabashed, incomplete
None stand out.
The authors reach a couple of conclusions without clear evidence, or without taking into account the contrary evidence. Overall, a very good book. I would not recommend to people who do not have an open mind about the origins of Yesuha or the Jesus movement.
The authors provide an intriguing analysis of a first-century tomb in Jerusalem. They tie it, with suggestive (but not conclusive) evidence, to the "Jesus family tomb" nearby; and that tomb in turn is tied, with evidence that is even more suggestive and even less conclusive, to Jesus himself.
Some of the argument stands or falls on whether the controversial "James ossuary" is genuine, and if so whether it came originally from the "Jesus family tomb". After bodies decomposed, the bones would be placed in a bone box or ossuary, usually plain but sometimes ornamented; and one such ossuary has the inscription "James son of Joseph brother of Jesus." There is considerable controversy as to whether the last phrase - "brother of Jesus" - is part of the original inscription or was forged by one of its more recent owners.
The new tomb, not excavated but explored with high-tech optical equipment, has an ossuary with an engraved picture that seems clearly to represent the story of Jonah. The authors tie this to the "sign of Jonah" mentioned by Jesus in one of the gospels and suggest this is evidence that the family that owned the tomb were of the first generation of Jewish Christians.
The book is on solid ground when it talks about Jesus' family relationships (mostly they're just quoting the New Testament in any case); and it's on solid ground when it describes the actual physical evidence. It gets a little unsteady when it argues that texts and bone-boxes are both referring to the same people, and to my non-expert eye, it begins to take off into nether regions when it uses the evidence to draw conclusions about early Christian theology.
In previous books, written separately, the authors have taken up one or another aspect of this complicated story. Here they've pooled their resources to bring all the threads together. I kept thinking, as I was listening to it: yes; maybe; it could all be true; but there's no smoking gun here, not yet. It's good to be open-minded, but it's also good to be cautious.
Overall, I enjoyed this book. It had some new insights into first century Christian belief. The use of the tetragrammaton name was quite interesting. No early manuscripts of the Greek Testament Scriptures have been found that use the Hebrew YHVH, but it's a usage was found on one of the ossuaries in the Jesus tomb. This family tomb dated before 70 CE, before the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, thus the use of the tetragrammaton is quite compelling to modern scholars... Mainly because it is understood that Jews at this time did not speak the name of God. Jesus and his family, and his early disciples were Jews. This gives insight to some of that understandings and behaviors, and symbols used by early Christians, especially the symbol of the Jonah fish. I think the argument that this family tomb is indeed the tomb of Jesus and his family, is quite compelling. Worth reading.
With all the effective equipment and expertise there is too much speculation.
These folks congratulate themselves on the find of the century, but they are still
speculating on a string of evidence. Couldn't finish it.
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